Multiple sclerosis impacts patients with not only lifelong treatment but lifelong expenses as well. While the Australian government does its part to assist multiple sclerosis patients with some financial funding, many patients find themselves incurring various out of pocket costs as well. It is estimated that Australians with multiple sclerosis may be spending up to a total of $78 million out of their personal funds to seek treatment and pay for other health care expenses.
What are the medical costs of having multiple sclerosis?
The costs that are incurred to multiple sclerosis patients are not primarily restricted to medical treatment alone but cover a vast expanse of other expenses as well. This can include residential care for the aged, or those in the advanced stage of the disease where assistance is needed with everyday activities. The loss of employment for those in the workforce is also another concern for Multiple sclerosis patients as many will lose their permanent employment as their symptoms worsen or will only be able to find part time employment. Loss of permanent employment also features as lower annual incomes for individuals.
Then there is the group of patients who require the need for aides and assistive devices for daily functioning. Funding is available for certain aides but others need to be paid for privately.
Many of the patients with a chronic illness also have other health conditions to deal with simultaneously. As such the number of medications that need to be taken increases and not all of the drugs may be covered by PBS. Even with a Medicare card and private health insurance many patients will need to make out of pocket expenses to meet their monthly medical bills which can easily range anywhere from $500 $1,000 per month for the patient.
In addition to these expenses, multiple sclerosis patients also have certain specific needs that are closely associated with their particular condition. For instance, many of those afflicted with the disease are known to be heat intolerant. And any increase in the body’s core temperature can lead to aggravating the symptoms of MS such as impaired mobility, blurred vision, increased incontinence, problems with balance and speech or any other aspect controlled by the central nervous system. Therefore, it is important that such individuals find themselves in comfortable and cool settings.
To achieve this many patients turn out to be high residential energy consumers. They keep their home air conditioners on longer to keep temperatures cool enough and have to face higher energy bills. This expense is incurred on patients by necessity and needs to be met with rebate schemes offered by the government.
Another group of people who are also impacted by MS are those that provide informal care for the patients. These might be working force members who, because they have to take care of the patient, are unable to work full time or may not be able to work at all. Loss of full time employment for family members and other caregivers also results in productivity loss not only for the household but also the economy as well.
Overcoming costs with multiple sclerosis financial assistance
Finding suitable financial assistance options for patients with MS can be difficult. Currently there are no organizations in Australia that offer financial assistance for multiple sclerosis patients. Patients can seek disability pension and other allowances through government support programs such as Centerlink.
An alternative for patients is to seek financial assistance through the support of family and friends. By using fundraising efforts, patients can raise thousands of dollars to help pay treatments and related medical expenses not covered by the public health system nor health insurance policies. Using a service such as PeoplePledge, which is free to use can help families get over the financial burden they may experience when a loved one is living with MS.
1) Key facts and figures about multiple sclerosis: http://www.msra.org.au/files/msra/docs/Key%20Facts%20and%20figures%20about%20MS%20September%202012.pdf
2) MS in focus magazine- Global Economic Impact of MS: http://www.msif.org/includes/documents/cm_docs/2011/g/global_economic_impact_of_ms.pdf?f=1
4) Economic Impact of Multiple Sclerosis in 2010 Australian MS Longitudinal Study: http://www.msnetwork.org/library/Economic%20Impact%20of%20MS%20in%202010.pdf
5) Acting Positively- Strategic implications of the economic costs of Multiple Sclerosis in Australia: http://www.msra.org.au/files/msra/docs/AccessEconomicsReportWinter2005.pdf
6) Health Voices April Edition: https://www.chf.org.au/pdfs/chf/HealthVoices_APRIL_WEB.pdf
7) MS society cooling rebate: http://scia.org.au/~sci25693/images/SCIA-media/Services/Advocacy/advocacy%20-%20ms%20society%20cooling%20rebate.pdf